ICEBEAR Offshore // The Boat Comes First

Land ho! Sailing into Town Cut in beautiful Bermuda.

To bring us up to the present, the end of the last trip to Bermuda saw backing winds and beautiful sun as we made landfall on the west side of the island at sundown. Gibb’s Island light hove into view just after dark. I’d never approached the island from the west like that, but it was considerably easier than coming from the north, with no danger of the off-lying reefs. The wind cooperated and we beam-reached the last 30 miles of the passage, rounding up towards Town Cut and almost able to sail right on through. We had a cruise ship coming in behind us though and I think the pilot boat wanted us to get in with it, so we motored the last few hundred yards into St. George’s.

It goes without saying, but Bermuda is spectacular when the weather is nice. We had one of those landfalls you dream about - just after sunrise, white puffy clouds overhead, cool northerly breezes, unbelievably blue water inside the cut. All of it. We rafted alongside a Swan 56 at BYA to clear customs (ICEBEAR is too deep for the customs dock!), filled up the water tanks, bid goodbye to the crew and then went out to anchor, where Mia & I spent a full week in Powder Hole acting like real cruisers for once and enjoying every second. Aside from one very stormy day, where it blew from the west and rained a monsoon, the weather was perfect.

Bob, Ryan & Colin wrestle the staysail down at sunset en route to Bermuda.

Which brings me to today’s topic. Mistakes. We’re at sea again, heading towards home waters on the Chesapeake, motor-boating through a completely flat sea and trying to get out ahead of the seasons first tropical disturbance, which we’re hoping doesn’t turn into a tropical depression. We’re only going 5.8 knots, with full sail up and the engine ticking over at 1,400 RPMs, because we didn’t fill up diesel in Bermuda. Mistake.

ISBJORN & ICEBEAR together at the dock in Bermuda, t-minus 2 hours til departure. We SHOULD have filled up with diesel on ICEBEAR!

Back in our ARCTURUS days, Mia came up with the obvious ‘boat first’ rule whenever we felt tired or lazy, especially offshore. Take care of the boat and she’ll take care of you. Every offshore sailor knows this, and follows this, if they’re paying attention.

When we got to Bermuda, a combination of too many responsibilities (managing two boats, new crews, the podcast, the blog, a new boat to us in ICEBEAR, the prospect of maybe NOT keeping the 59 in favor of something else, all the people we knew from past events in Bermuda, and on) and enjoying the ‘cruising life,’ which we haven’t had much of lately made us complacent. I was excited to record a whole bunch of new podcasts, we were invited to crash the ARC Europe fish fry party, we went swimming every morning and I got distracted looking into the possibility of us getting an S&S Swan 65. Anyhow, all of that added up to the fact that we had decidedly abandoned that ‘boat first’ rule.

Too much fun with Ben from Sail Bainbridge in Bermuda! He was ISBJORN’s mate on the passage with Matt Rutherford as skipper.

Enjoying life on anchor in St. Georges.

At this very moment, my biggest regret is not filling up diesel. It would have been a pain in the ass - since we can’t fit on the little gas station dock in town, we’d have had to call the truck and tie up an Pennos Wharf - but now that there is NO wind offshore, I’m realizing the mistake. We expect it to fill back in tonight or tomorrow morning, but that will have been 36 hours of motoring right off the bat. That won’t leave us much left if we run out of wind as we approach the Chesapeake, now will it? We’ll almost certainly have to stop in Norfolk to fill up before heading up the Bay. [Note: In the end, we didn’t stop in Norfolk, the fuel lasted and we sailed the last few miles into Annapolis!]

We also left a bunch of little maintenance projects go that we should have done in Bermuda. The autopilot is not working and I don’t know why (and never bothered to check). The lee cloth in the forepeak bunk is still broken from the last trip when Ryan basically fell out of bed when it failed with him on the high side (!). The base of the forward dorade vent is coming off and needs to be drilled out and tapped. I can do that today, it’s calm enough, but still, it should have been done before. I re-tuned the runners and checkstays this morning, and other project okay to do offshore, but what could have been done before.

300 miles offshore, ICEBEAR & ISBJORN just happened to cross tacks in mid-ocean. Got some epics photos of each!

If we run out of fuel, it’s not the end of the world. We’re a sailboat after all, and it won’t be an emergency. But it’s a reminder that I have slowly let down my guard since returning from the Arctic last year. I was so good at paying attention in that hostile environment, and we had such a successful time of it. Last year Mia and I lamented the fact that we had only 1 day between crews coming and going, had not time for ourselves, no time to exhale between trips. We’ve traded that kind of stress for a different kind this year as we attempt to build the business beyond just the two of us, adding a second boat, hiring crew, all that. But none of that excuses letting the ‘boat first’ mantra lapse. I’m paying for it now with the stress of the fuel issue.

The consolation is that at least now I am paying attention. It’s a perfect day to address all that small stuff we didn’t do in Bermuda while it’s still calm, including trouble-shooting the autopilot. And it’ll be a good ‘reset’ for the rest of the sailing season.

Celebrating our arrival back in home waters in Annapolis!